In July 2012, Frank Ocean came out with his debut “channel ORANGE,” and I didn’t quite understand it. At the time it wasn’t the album I needed considering my music taste at the time.
After returning to it about a year later, I grew an even greater appreciation for it as my music tastes had matured greatly.
Now, we’re 4 years past that debut album and after false dates, rumors, management changes, interviews with collaborators and more, the hype train has finally arrived and with it, Frank Ocean’s sophomore album, “Blonde.”
At first, “Blonde” was a tough pill to swallow. I was confused during my first listens, not quite sure what Frank was going for.
As I began to piece together my thoughts, I realized I was underwhelmed. Really, after four years, this is it? A bunch of good, but not necessarily great songs? What is this?
However, as I’ve grown past my first listens and really dug into the album, I am definitely not underwhelmed as “Blonde” might just be Frank’s best work yet and a worthy follow-up to “channel ORANGE.”
It should be noted that both of these albums are very different in their approaches to songwriting and storytelling. With “channel ORANGE,” much of it is told from the third person. Some of these stories are Frank’s, but not many. They are stories about other people, but in some way find their connection to Frank and his own life.
On “Blonde,” the distance Frank drew between himself and his audience has decreased, as many of the albums stories revolve around himself. A lot has happened to him since dropping his debut album and this new album seems to be him getting that together.
On one of the album’s early standouts, “Ivy,” Frank recalls his first love, singing on the hook “I thought that I was dreaming / When you said you loved me.” However, the song is bittersweet, as the relationship didn’t last and ended badly, yet, there’s still love there.
Now, before I delve further into the lyrics, I should talk about the album’s production, which is extremely minimalistic compared to Frank’s previous work. The instrumentation is sparse throughout, most songs not even featuring percussion and whatever instrumentation there is subdued and almost ambient-like, letting Frank step up to the plate as a singer and lyricist.
And since his last album, Frank has improved his craft in subtle ways. While “channel ORANGE” is an album much more heavily focused on songwriting, “Blonde” is much more focused on texture and mood.
An example of this would be a song on the back half of the album, “White Ferrari,” with its instrumentation being heavily obscured in the background, only featuring a droning synth, an acoustic guitar, and some rattling hi-hats, as Frank details an emotional story about an old love from his teenage years in New Orleans.
Frank Ocean tries his best to find himself in his music, instead of other people. However, in the journey though, he succeeds, captivating myself and millions of fans worldwide.
I’m giving this album an A.
Listen to “Blonde” on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2cAtW1k